Dutch objections to British Singapore, 1819-1824: Law, politics, commerce and a diplomatic misstep

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The year 1819 is almost universally taken as a seminal date in Singapore historiography. Yet Stamford Raffles' founding of a British trading post there was controversial from the start. The Dutch and the British haggled as to whether or not Raffles had overstepped his authority, and whether the trading post was legal. From the start, the Dutch demanded that the British quit their occupation of Singapore. During a three-year hiatus in the Anglo-Dutch negotiations (1820-23), Anton Reinhard Falck, the lead Dutch negotiator, decided to drop claims to Singapore in favour of a rearrangement of possessions in the archipelago. Crucially, he concluded that dropping claims over Singapore would not amount to a real loss. Instead, Falck hoped to use Singapore as a bargaining chip to squeeze additional concessions from the British. The Dutch formally relinquished their claim over Singapore in article 12 of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty, which gave full recognition and legitimacy to the British post, and sanctioned a breakup of the Johor-Riau Empire with the Singapore Straits acting as a notional dividing line. Earlier studies were substantially based on English-language materials and present the British as dominating the negotiations. The present article, based on Dutch archival materials as well as studies and sources in French, Dutch and English, reveals a fuller story of diplomatic disputes, territorial concessions, errors of judgement, and the triggering of the Dutch empire in the archipelago, in a paper war for the contested space of Singapore.




Borschberg, P. (2019, December 1). Dutch objections to British Singapore, 1819-1824: Law, politics, commerce and a diplomatic misstep. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022463420000053

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